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More Voices

Every month More Voices invites readers to contribute short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme.


I still remember the night I decided to become a nurse. My eight-year-old daughter had been admitted to the hospital following an emergency appendectomy, and I stayed overnight on the pediatric unit with her. A nurse named Suzanne came on at 11:00. She had short blond hair, a pink jacket and an air of matter-of-fact confidence. I can’t picture her face any more, but I can still see her hands--checking my daughter's dressing, using a pillow to prop her on her side, smoothing the blanket over her shoulders.

I had always liked using my hands to make repairs around the house, to work in the garden, to sew my daughter’s clothes. I thought: I could do those things.

But some of the tasks Suzanne was doing--affixing my daughter's IV tube with lots of tape so she wouldn't pull it out by accident, hanging an antibiotic bag from the IV pole--seemed exotic and difficult. What special knowledge does a nurse need to have? I wondered. The strong, capable way Suzanne used her hands suggested to me that this special knowledge was contained in her long fingers, her smooth palms and her trim, unpolished nails.

When I got to nursing school, I always took notice of the competent-looking hands of my instructors, especially next to my own fumbling ones. Now, years later, my hands can do all the things a nurse needs to do. And I know that nursing is more than a set of facts, a body of knowledge. It's also a way of thinking, even a way of being, that begins with reaching out a helping hand.
Priscilla Mainardi
Montclair, New Jersey